Bridge L6007 on Skyline Parkway over Stewart Creek
Bridge number: L6007
Year built: ca. 1925
Contractor: Perley N. Gillham
Span length: 30 feet
Length of arch barrel: 29 feet
Adapted from the National Register of Historic Places nomination from prepared by Jeffrey A. Hess. Bridge No. L-6007 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.
Bridge No. L-6007, surrounded by municipal, wooded, park land in the southwestern part of the Duluth, is an unaltered, single-span, stone-arch highway bridge that carries an unpaved section of Skyline Parkway over Stewart Creek. Bridge No. L-6007 is built of dark-green locally quarried gabbro, an abundant, commonly used building material in the Duluth area. Springing about 7 feet above grade from rubble abutments, the single elliptical arch leaps a deep ravine, rising about 10 feet over a span of 30 feet. The voussoirs are well-blocked and very uniform. The rubble spandrel walls are roughly coursed with massive, crudely shaped blocks, extending, backwards in a continuous line to form retaining walls for the approaches. Lined with gabbro boulders roughly worked into pinnacles, the approaches lead up to railings topped with double, sawtooth rows of gabbro that define the span of the arch. The bridge's overall width is about 29 feet.
Bridge No. L6007 is historically significant as the most picturesque setting and design of any stone-arch highway bridge in the state. The bridge belongs to the category of stone-arch park bridges, a type that is designed as much for ornamental effect as for load-bearing capability. The bridge's construction history is unknown. Neither the Duluth Park Department nor the Duluth City Engineer's Office has been able to locate pertinent records on the structure. It is known, however, that the bridge was designed as part of a scenic boulevard, now known as Skyline Parkway, which runs for almost 30 miles along the crest of a high ridge overlooking Duluth and Lake Superior.
In 1921, the City of Duluth began purchasing land to extend the parkway from its present West Duluth terminus around the brow of Bardon's Peak to the Shore Line Park Road so the road would connect with Fond du Lac and Jay Cooke State Park. The proposed extension included Stewart Creek, located between West Duluth and Bardon's Peak. Although it is unknown precisely when or where road construction began, the Duluth Herald of October 21, 1924, announced that the Stewart Creek segment would "be ready for use next year." Apparently, the stone-arch bridge was part of the original boulevard construction. On May 19, 1926, the Duluth Herald reported that a gift of park land in the Stewart Creek Valley was adjacent to "the stone bridge." In view of these considerations, it seems reasonable to assign a construction date of "ca. 1925" to the structure.
Conveying a mood rather than a style, the bridge is perhaps best described as "Picturesque," a term that was classically defined in the mid-19th century by the influential American landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing. Downing in The Architecture of Country Houses (1850) says, "The Picturesque is seen in ideas of beauty manifested with something of rudeness, violence, or difficulty. The effect of the whole is spirited and pleasing, but parts are not balanced, proportions are not perfect, and details are rude. We feel at the first glance at a picturesque object, the idea of power exerted, rather than the idea of beauty which it involves."
In the best Picturesque tradition, the traveler abruptly comes upon the stone-arch bridge in the bend of a secluded twisting road, where it rears its massive, craggy, dark masonry over a wild and wooded ravine. Instead of the gentle curves of a segmental or semicircular arch, the bridge incorporates an elliptical arch on high abutments, which accelerates the vertical thrust of the opening to create the impression of towering space. The romantic qualities of the design are further enhanced by the pinnacle-like boulders lining the approaches and the spikey saw-tooth railings surmounting the arch like a ragged crown. It is to be regretted that the structure's architect or engineer has not been identified, for the Stewart Creek Bridge is the most inspired stone-arch design in the state.